FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Southwest Allen County Schools will keep high school and middle school students on a virtual learning plan through December and winter break as the district struggles with a lack of substitute teachers and other COVID-related woes.
District Superintendent Phil Downs said in a letter to parents Tuesday that secondary students would remain home until Jan. 5. Students were set to return to in-person learning after Thanksgiving break, on Nov. 3.
SACS elementary schools will remain open with no proposed changes, Downs said.
“We knew the 2020-2021 school year would be unique and challenging,” said Downs. “Our Return to School Plan was developed to keep staff and students safe and your child’s health is our primary concern when we make these decisions, yet there are many factors we must consider. The reality is we need teachers to teach, and the numbers of isolations and quarantines, combined with the lack of substitutes available, continue to impede our ability to staff classrooms.”
Downs said since school began Aug. 12, more than 400 of the district’s 1,000+ staff members have been impacted by COVID-19. Just 47 staffers have tested positive for COVID-19, though.
The district’s list of active substitute teachers has fallen well off. Last year, the district had 150-200 as the ready; as of Tuesday, the district has 51.
Downs said many subs chose not to teach this year. The district’s transportation and food services staff has also been impacted, he added.
Down said SACS has seen a “slight increase” in positive COVID cases.
“It is our hope the community spread decreases over the next few weeks to the point we have fewer staff in quarantine or ill,” Downs said. “As soon as we can cover the number of teachers out of the classroom, we will bring the secondary students back to the buildings.”
SACS extra-curricular and co-curricular activities will continue as scheduled, Downs said.
Downs encouraged families to wear masks, practice social distancing, and wash hands regularly.